HOCKEY IS BACK! Well, pre-season hockey, that is. The Leafs are taking on the Ottawa Senators in Toronto tonight, and they’re also taking on the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa. Well, Kanata. Nobody ever plays hockey in Ottawa. But still, you have to appreciate being able to watch two Leafs games at the same time, as long as you have the capacity to do so. If not, you’ll still be able to read our spiffy post-games here at The Leafs Nation. Before the pucks drop, however, lets tackle some questions.
@mo_toews asked: With all the speculation about the top line and top d pairing, who do you think should be on them?
We’re going to have to see a few preseason games before making a strong conclusion one way or another, but I have a feeling the top two lines are going to see near identical minutes. Now, personally? I’d like to see a Van Riemsdyk-Kadri-Parenteau line, though I’m not sure how likely that will be.
On defence, putting Dion Phaneuf with one of Jake Gardiner or Morgan Rielly is going to be essential moving forward, and I expect that Babcock will agree.
@Leafydude asked: Which 1-2 players do you see surprising during camp and making the team opening night?
The two most recent PTO forwards, in Glencross and Boyes. There’s no reason to believe that they’re out of gas, and the Leafs know that they’ll get a solid return for both in a few months. I expect both to pick up one-year contracts by the start of the season, even if it forces the Leafs to make some tough decisions.
@Peterbaugh28 asked: With Troy Bodie gone, who do you guess will be wearing the C for the Marlies this season?
There are two people that I think would be deserving of the role. If he doesn’t make the Leafs, and then clears waivers, TJ Brennan is a near automatic. He’s very well-liked in the room, and is their star defenceman. The entire Marlies team; be it the players, staff, and everyone in between, was thrilled to have him back last year and he’d be an ideal face.
If he’s not around, I say go full in on the youth moment and give it to Connor Brown. He’s on the ice enough to make those letter benefits matter, he’s well-spoken, and he’s from the area. He’s a shining example of the value of hard work, and could no doubt be groomed into a vocal leader.
@LeafsHokyfan31 asked: Chances of Phaneuf being traded at the deadline? How about Bozak, Lupul, Polak?
If the Leafs do end up trading Dion Phaneuf, I’d expect that to no sooner than the draft, when teams have a better idea of their financial situation. Look at Phil Kessel; it took until July 1st for the Penguins to fully get a grasp of where their dollars were and pull the trigger.
The others don’t make quite as much and aren’t as high-priority core pieces, so a team might reach out if they find themselves weak in a certain spot. Polak would probably be the first to gain interest, though all three are potential deadline pieces.
@kmcrobbie10 asked: Which player will benefit most from Babcock and his system, and which player will be hurt the most?
The easy answer for benefit is Dion Phaneuf; Babcock has repeatedly stated how highly he thinks of the polarizing defenceman, and was a driving reason for the Red Wings’ interest in acquiring Dion last season. Babcock will be hard at work to find him the best situation.
Now, as for the latter, I’m not sure if “hurt’ is the right word, but James van Riemsdyk is likely going to have to go through some adjustments. We talk a lot about 200-foot players in Toronto, and JVR isn’t quite there yet. Because he crashes the net and isn’t an elite skater, he’s often the last guy back, and the team tends to give up a lot of shots with him on the ice. Babcock will likely want to change that.